Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Delivered at the

International symposium on fresh produce supply chain management

6–10 December 2006
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Dr Adisak Sreesumpagit, Director General of the Department of Agriculture,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you, on behalf of the Regional Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to this important international symposium on fresh produce supply chain management.

In their efforts to diversify agricultural production and in response to growing markets, many developing countries have seen a significant increase in the production of horticultural crops, including flowers. In the Asia-Pacific region, this trend has taken two forms:

  • On the one hand, some countries have seen a significant increase in the production of local produce for their growing domestic market. For example, according to FAOSTAT, the production of pumpkins, squash and gourds in the People’s Republic of China has quadrupled since 1990 to reach 5 million tonnes in 2004; likewise, the production of eggplants in India has nearly trebled to reach 8.2 million tonnes over the same period.
  • On the other hand, some countries have developed specialized production systems to cater for the international market. For instance, Thailand’s export value for asparagus has trebled since 1990 to reach 25 million US dollars in 2004; apple exports out of the People’s Republic of China increased eleven-fold over the same period to reach a value of 838 million US dollars!

FAO considers marketing a vital component for ensuring food security and sustainable agribusiness development. In particular, FAO’s work on fostering better marketing conditions for horticultural crops contributes to the Organization’s endeavour to achieve Millennium Development Goal number 1 (Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger), which specifically considers poverty and food insecurity as interlinked. Indeed, not only do horticultural crops contribute to food and nutrition security, but marketing such produce also contributes to income generation, thus providing money for food, education, health care, and other basic needs contributing to sustainable development.

The development of market-orientated horticultural supply chains is a major challenge for developing countries and some of the constraints faced by the industry stakeholders are directly linked to the specific characteristics of fresh produce and cut flowers. These products have a high market value compared with grains, and their labour-intensiveness makes them suitable for smallholder production. However, producing fruits, vegetables or flowers is also considered risky because of relatively high investment costs, strong market price fluctuations and high perishability of the crops, among other factors.

For example, farmers and traders dealing in organic or superior quality vegetables complain that they cannot obtain adequate premium prices from the market for the extra quality produce they supply. At the same time, agroprocessing and supermarket buyers find it difficult to identify and retain producers willing to adhere to their stringent quality assurance schemes. This paradox suggests that there is a problem for supply chain stakeholders to work together on quality management and value creation.

Monitoring, certifying and remunerating quality is thus a major issue which developing countries, development organizations and international organizations need to address in collaboration with the stakeholders of fresh produce supply chains. What is more, it is very important to learn about success stories on how to foster the adequate enabling environment for private sector stakeholders to organize successful supply chains that bring mutual benefits to farmers and traders while addressing the demand of consumers.

It is for this reason that the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has accepted the invitation of the Department of Agriculture to organize this international symposium. In collaboration with Curtin University of Technology (Perth, Western Australia) and the Agricultural and Food Marketing Association for Asia and the Pacific (AFMA), FAO is proud to have gathered so many speakers and participants to this event which I hope will be an enlightening forum to disseminate success stories and appropriate tools for good practices of supply chain management of fresh produce.

For us at FAO, the objective of this symposium is to learn about the latest innovations and trends in logistics and distribution, collaboration and coordination within international horticultural supply chains. I hope this symposium will contribute to bringing our knowledge up to date with the myriad initiatives from the field, which FAO is eager to uncover and disseminate.

I also wish that the experiences and lessons learned from this symposium will be used to foster new partnerships between food chain stakeholders and will help us guide policy-makers towards developing sustainable global agrifood marketing chains. Indeed, more efforts are needed in harmonizing safety standards among countries, raising the awareness of farmers and traders about national and international standards, and assessing the impacts of agribusiness- and supermarket-led supply chains on the rural economies of developing countries. The lessons from this symposium will help FAO to develop future programmes and become a catalytic instrument for regional cooperation in this emerging field.

Before I conclude, I wish to thank the members of the advisory committee for their advice and inputs on the preparation of this symposium. Likewise, I wish to thank the Department of Agriculture, Curtin University of Technology, Asia Pacific Food Online, AFMA and the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for their support. A special thanks should also be extended to Dr Peter Batt from Curtin University of Technology for taking the lead scientific editorship of this symposium. Finally, I thank you all for coming here to share your expertise on fresh produce supply chain management.

I wish you a fruitful exchange of ideas and information in the following five days.

Thank you.